Posts made in July 2017

Break free from financial stress

Break Free From Financial Stress

About half of Americans believe they are unprepared for a sudden financial need such as the purchase of a new car, appliance or furniture or a significant home repair. Whether it’s saving, budgeting or planning, addressing our financial goals is beneficial for our overall health and wellbeing.

Making the most of your money starts with five building blocks for managing and growing your money – The MyMoney Five. Keep these five principles in mind as you make day-to-day decisions and plan your financial goals.1

1. Earn 

  • Your employer has to subtract certain taxes and other items from your wages every pay period. Your take-home pay (net income) is what you receive after any taxes and deductions are subtracted.
  • Usually, your deductions and withholdings include federal, state and city income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, your contributions for retirement savings, and payments for health insurance provided as part of your job.
  • Be sure you take advantage of all the credits and deductions that help lower your taxes.
  • It’s a good idea to sign up if your employer offers a retirement savings program. Many employers will match part of every dollar you save this way, and you will benefit from it when you retire.

2. Borrow 

  • Borrowing money is a way to purchase something now and pay for it over time. But, you usually pay “interest” when you borrow money. The longer you take to pay back the money you borrowed, the more you will pay in interest.
  • It pays to shop around to get the best deal on a loan. Compare loan terms from several lenders, and it’s okay to negotiate the terms.
  • When repaying a loan, it may be better to pay more than the minimum amount due each month, so you will have to pay less in interest over the life of the loan.
  • One of your most important aids when shopping for a loan is the APR – the Annual Percentage Rate. This is the total cost, including interest charges and fees, described as a yearly rate.
  • Paying your bills on time will help increase your credit score. Even if you fell into trouble with borrowing in the past, you can get on solid footing and rebuild your credit history by making regular payments as agreed.
You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus. Go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll free 1-877-322-8228 to order the free reports. Beware of imposter sites.

3. Save & Invest

  • An easy way to save is to pay yourself first. That means each pay period, before you are tempted to spend money, commit to putting some in a savings account. See if you can arrange with your bank to automatically transfer a certain amount from your paycheck or your checking account to savings every month.
  • People who keep track of their savings often end up saving more, because they have it on their minds.
  • If you are making investments, it’s good to consult with a qualified professional about your plans. Before you purchase investments, be sure to build an emergency savings fund to cover your needs for at least three months. Keep the savings in an insured bank or credit union account that you can access if you need it.
  • Many professionals call themselves “financial planners.” Before you hire one, ask for a description of the services offered. A good place to check the credentials of an investment advisor is your State’s consumer protection office, the State’s Attorney General’s office, or the issuing agency for any professional licenses or certifications.

4. Budget & Spend

  • Make a budget or a plan for using your money wisely. Set short and long-term financial goals and manage your money to meet them.
  • A good way to take control of your spending is to set the maximum amounts you plan to spend each week or each month. Once you’ve set the maximum, stick with your plan.
  • It’s helpful to track your spending over a few weeks or months to get a handle on how you are using your dollars and cents. Look into using online systems or phone apps for keeping track of your spending – you will be amazed at what you’ll learn about your habits!
  • Be careful not to let a sale or discount coupon persuade you to purchase something you don’t really need and that isn’t in your spending plan.
  • When planning a big purchase, take time to comparison shop and check prices at a few different stores, by phone or online.

5. Protect

  • A good system for keeping personal money records will include copies of important documents like your will, property ownership documents, and information about savings and insurance. It should include overview of what happens to property after a major life event occurs.
  • Assume that any offer that “sounds too good to be true” – especially one from a stranger or an unfamiliar company – is probably a fraud.
  • Look at your bank statements and bills as soon as they arrive and report any discrepancy or anything suspicious, such as an unauthorized withdrawal or charge.
  • Be wary of request to “update” or “confirm” personal information, especially your Social Security number, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, personal identification numbers, your date of birth or your mother’s maiden name in response to an unsolicited call, letter or e-mail.

Budgeting Basics

Make a budget worksheet to evaluate which expenses are flexible and which are fixed for at least two or three consecutive months. This will give you an idea of how you are spending your money and changes you can make to improve your situation.

Download a FREE interactive, budget worksheet at:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-1020-make-budget-worksheet.pdf

Fixed Expenses

Fixed expenses are items you have little or no control over. You will pay a fixed amount for these expenses each month. Remember, you have some control over certain expenses before you sign a contract, for example, a short-term or payday loan, car loan, or home mortgage. You should shop for the best value before committing to the payments.

Examples include: health insurance, car insurance, life insurance, homeowners or renters insurance, rent or mortgage, auto loan or lease payment. 

Flexible Expenses

Flexible expenses are expenses that you can control – think about what you need and what you want. This will help you control your spending in this category. What are some ways that you could control the costs of these expenses?

Examples include: groceries, coffee, restaurants, utilities, gasoline, internet, cable, phone or cell phone, car or home repair, activities or hobbies, savings, and emergency savings.2 


References:

  1. https://www.mymoney.gov
  2. https://www.mycreditunion.gov/tools-resources/Pages/Personal-Budgeting-Worksheet.aspx
Stress and Heart Health

Stress and Your Heart’s Health

You may be surprised to learn that you might be bringing unnecessary stress into your life by your own choices and lifestyle habits. It’s important to remember, even during times of stress, anxiety, or depression, that your heart health is vital to both your mental and physical wellbeing.

During stress, your body releases adrenaline, the hormone that temporarily causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up, and raises your blood pressure1. These are normal reactions (the “fight or flight” response) that help you prepare to face a stressful situation. Constant stress, however, can have a negative wide-ranging effect on emotions, some of which include:

  • Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain
  • Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms
  • Unexplained or frequent “allergy” attacks
  • Chest pain, palpitations, rapid pulse
  • Depression, frequent or wild mood swings
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
  • Increased frustration, irritability, edginess2

Prolonged or chronic stress increases cortisol, the stress hormone, and can wreak havoc on your health by compromising your immune system and contributing to many diseases including high blood pressure. Research shows that excessive stress can affect lifestyle behaviors and factors that increase the risk of heart disease3.

  • Sudden stress increases the pumping action and heart rate resulting in rising blood pressure.
  • Stress alters the heart rhythms posing a risk for rhythm abnormalities in people with existing heart rhythm disturbances.
  • Stress causes certain blood cells to become stickier.
  • Stress impairs the clearance of fat molecules in the body making it more difficult to lose weight.
  • Stress that leads to depression appears to be associated with an increased intima-medial thickness (a measure of the arteries that signifies worsening blood vessel disease)2.

Heart disease accounts for 1 in 7 deaths and remains the number 1 cause of death in the United States4.


Stressors, any event that causes the release of stress hormones, can be different for each person. Stressors can be helpful during emergency situations, meeting deadlines or reaching your goals. But stressful situations, such as divorce or job loss, can produce long, low-level stress that over time wears down the body’s immune system and increases the risk of heart disease and a variety of other health problems5.

When stress persists, it can often affect various organs and tissues all over the body including:

  • Nervous system
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Respiratory system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Endocrine system
  • Gastrointestinal system
  • Reproductive system6

Tips to Reduce Stress

While we’re unable to rid ourselves from all inevitable stressors, fortunately, there are lifestyle changes and stress-reduction techniques you can practice to improve your response to stress and help minimize its damaging effects on your heart and overall health.

  • Exercise. When you exercise, your body releases natural, mood-lifting chemicals that help you feel better. Your workout doesn’t have to be extreme; a short walk every day is all it takes.
  • Nutrition. Eating meals that are balanced and portion-controlled will keep you mentally and physically healthy.
  • Sleep. Poor sleeping habits can have a harmful effect on your mood. It is important to get plenty of sleep and rest. Most people need about seven to eight hours each night.
  • Social Support. Talk with friends and family frequently. Think about joining a special-interest class or group. Volunteering is a great way to meet people while helping yourself and others.
  • Deep Breathing. Taking a deep breath is an automatic and effective technique for winding down.
  • Meditation. Studies have suggested that regular meditation can benefit the heart and help reduce blood pressure.
  • Humor. Research shows that humor is an effective mechanism for coping with acute stress. It is recommended to keep a sense of humor during difficult situations. Laughter can release tension and help you maintain perspective, but it can also have physical effects that reduce stress hormone levels in your body.
  • Avoid Alcohol Use. If you are going to drink alcohol, limit how often you drink, and practice moderation as alcohol may increase your risk of depression.
  • Recognize When You Need Help. If you continue to have problems, are unable to overcome the difficult circumstance, or are thinking about suicide, talk to a professional counselor, psychologist or social worker2,7.

Adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors is instrumental in preserving your health and preventing disease. Health is more than just the absence of disease; it is a resource that allows you to reach your goals, satisfy your needs and cope within your environment for more good years®.


References

  1. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/StressManagement/HowDoesStressAffectYou/Stress-and-Heart-Health_UCM_437370_Article.jsp#.WV0hu1GQxQI
  2. A.D.A.M. Stress
  3. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/StressManagement/HowDoesStressAffectYou/How-does-depression-affect-the-heart_UCM_460263_Article.jsp#.WVo-IlGQxQI 
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/
  6. https://www.stress.org/stress-effects/
  7. nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus
Healthy grilling

Grill Like a Pro & Stay Safe This Summer

Cooking outdoors was once only a summer activity shared with family and friends. Now more than half of Americans say they are cooking outdoors year round. Did you know that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases, according to the CDC? Use these simple guidelines for grilling food safely.

From the Store

  • When shopping, buy cold food like meat and poultry last, right before checkout.
  • Separate raw meat and poultry from other food in your shopping cart.
  • To guard against cross-contamination – which can happen when raw meat or poultry juices drip on other food – put packages of raw meat and poultry into plastic bags.
  • Plan to drive directly home from the grocery store.
  • You may want to take a cooler with ice for perishables. Always refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours or within 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F.
  • At home, place meat and poultry in the refrigerator immediately.
  • Freeze poultry and ground meat that won’t be used within 1 or 2 days; freeze other meat within 4 to 5 days.

Thaw Safely

  • Completely thaw meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks more evenly.
  • Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water.
  • For quicker thawing, you can defrost the food in a microwave if will be placed immediately on the grill.

Marinating

  • Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
  • Poultry and cubed meat or stew meat can be marinated up to 2 days.
  • Beef, veal, pork, and lamb roasts, chops, and steaks may be marinated up to 5 days.
  • If some of the marinade is to be used as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion of the marinade before putting raw meat and poultry in it.

Transporting

  • When carrying food to another location, keep it cold to minimize bacterial growth.
  • Use an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs to keep the food at 40°F or below.
  • Pack food right from the refrigerator into the cooler immediately before leaving home.

Keep Everything Clean

  • Be sure there are plenty of clean utensils and platters.
  • To prevent foodborne illness, don’t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and poultry and their juices can contaminate safely cooked food.

Precooking

  • Precooking food partially in the microwave, oven, or stove is a good way of reducing grilling time.
  • Just make sure that the food is immediately placed on the preheated grill to complete cooking.

Cook Thoroughly

  • Cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside.
  • Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature.
  • NEVER partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.

Keep Hot Food Hot

  • After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served at 140°F or warmer.
  • Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook.
  • At home, the cooked meat can be kept hot in an oven set at approximately 200°F, in a chafing dish or slow cooker, or on a warming tray.

Leftovers

  • Refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers.
  • Discard any food left out more than 2 hours and 1 hour if temperatures are above 90°F.

Healthy Grilling Tip

Processed and breaded meats such as hot dogs, bratwursts, burgers, and chicken are typical barbeque entrees. Burgers are often made with high-fat ground beef. All of these foods are high in unhealthy saturated fats and calories. The more processed a meat is, the more sodium it has.

  • Opt for leaner options such as: grilled chicken or turkey (without the skin),
  • Use burgers made with lean ground turkey or beef (at least 90% lean), or fish.
  • Grill kabobs made with peppers, onions, mushrooms and other vegetables.
  • Veggie and black bean burgers are a great protein alternative with big flavors!

References

Copyright © 2019 U.S. Preventive Medicine. All Rights Reserved.